Do You Know Where Your SMBs Are?

Posted: 3/2004

Do You Know Where Your SMBs Are?

Or who they are talking to?
Qwest is offering small businesses
unlimited long distance for $20 a month. I got the sales call seeking my home
office usage. Compared to what I am paying now with MCI, its less than half and
sometimes as much as one-third the cost. Times 12 and I would save between $250
and $500.

For small businesses with long-distance bills in the hundreds of dollars, the
savings clearly would be exponentially more. The allure is like candy to a baby.
No brainer.

So much so that Cliff Holtz, executive vice president of the Business Markets
Group at Qwest, says the plan, Qwest Choice, is flying off the shelves so to
speak. Rallying a group of the LECs channel partners at a January event in
Denver, he says that his fall projections for the companys in-region
long-distance business (available in all but one state of its 14-state
territory) were aggressive, but the results have been well in excess of those

In January, the company also put 75 direct sales people on the street in 21
markets to tackle the small and medium business market. This is in addition to
the throngs of agents that are pounding the pavement on their behalf and the
telemarketers like the one who called me.

I took the bait. I never made it through thirdparty verification … but
thats another story involving a queue and a small child.

Even though I did not see Holtz run sheet, I believe what he says about
Qwests in-region sales to be true. It just makes sense, or rather dollars and
cents, for the small and midsize businesses that, despite news to the contrary,
still are working through the downturn.

If thats not enough bad news for the competition that historically has been
a much better partner for this target, Qwest is not the only Bell that is
proactively targeting this segment. IDC analyst Will Stofeg, says the Bells are
now taking a look at this market in a serious way.

It appears that with the regulatory battle against Bell long-distance entry
lost (rightly or wrongly), competitors now face an even tougher fight in the
marketplace. This outcome underscores their need for a victory on the remaining
questions posed in the Triennial Review Order.

A study released at the end of January by the CompTel/ASCENT Alliance and the
PACE Coalition estimates that bundled offerings and lower prices for both local
and long-distance services reduced small business voice phone bills by about 10
percent last year. The result, according to the CompTel/PACE analysis, was an
aggregate savings of $4.4 billion, or about $770 a year on average for each of
Americas 5.7 million small businesses. Moreover, the analysis foresees savings
in 2004 of at least $4.3 billion and as much as $6.7 billion, if policymakers
maintain policies necessary to sustain competition.

The expansion of telecom competition is providing an important economic
boost by reducing the cost of operating a small business, says H. Russell
Frisby Jr., CEO of the CompTel/ASCENT Alliance. But these benefits could be
jeopardized by critical court and regulatory decisions on the agenda for this


[email protected].
Editor in Chief

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